amazonecho

Earlier this week, Amazon unveiled something completely different than its Kindle or Fire Phone products. The company unveiled an audio speaker: the Amazon Echo. Similar to Siri, but separated from the limits of a smartphone, the Echo is an artificially intelligent device that can tell you the time.

Alexa, the default name for the device’s artificial intelligence, can play your music requests or the latest episode of This American Life. It has a normal plug — and doesn’t need to recharge a battery — so once it’s on, it’s always on. It also runs on Amazon’s cloud-computing service, Amazon Web Services, which will connect the company’s massive information databases and computing capacity to your home.

At a price point of just $99 for Amazon Prime members (and $199 for everyone else) during its debut, it’s an easy sell compared to shelling out several hundred for a new phone or computer. Tech Crunch’s Greg Kumparak explains that this price move is particularly insightful, as Amazon Prime members are known for ordering more than normal Amazon customers, and will now be incentivized to buy more, right when they’re thinking about it.

This is Amazon we’re talking about. Everything in your shopping cart, your browsing history, or your recent purchases is fair game for an advertiser. The Echo could suggest adding products to your cart from searches you recently conducted, or offer related items that others went on to buy. It could suggest very timely products (“It’s raining on Saturday, would you like to order an umbrella?”) and offer the newest DVD, album or book releases, all corresponding to what you’re listening to.

It’s worth noting that this will be done without having to type or click — gone are the endless options and price comparisons. With your personal assistant taking note of your desires, it’d be easy to simply just keep adding to your cart. Unlike Siri, Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall mentions that Alexa will get smarter over time and add new services, presumably as customers try to maximize the convenience of the device.

Measuring how effective the device is at reaching the target audience would be easy for Amazon, as its vast amounts of consumer intelligence would be well within a marketers grasp. Impressions and engaged time might be a thing of the past if all Alexa has to do is suggest an adjacent, but necessary, item you need to order. Immediate sales might then be the new standard.

Amazon is choosing to roll out the product slowly to its most devoted customers that have already requested an invite, which means it will most likely iterate on the technology before releasing it on a large scale. Regardless if the Echo is a success, this may represent a step forward for a connected home — one that will tell you what temperature to set your oven and which brands to do your grocery shopping with at the same time.